Category Archives: Dark Age London


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Greenford was first recorded, as Grenan forda, in the ninth century, in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 845.  It takes its name from the Old English grene, and ford, referring to a vegetated area around a  ford over the River Brent.  The manor was in the hands of Westminster Abbey from the time of the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century until that of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth.  It remained essentially rural until the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the arrival of the railway.

Church of Holy Cross

General view - Holy Cross Greenford

Weatherboarded tower

Old gravestone with skull and crossbones motif

The old church of Holy Cross on Oldfield Lane is thought to have been founded in  the twelfth century, around 1157.  The oldest surviving parts of the present church, though, are thirteenth- to fourteenth- century, and the main body of it  is late fifteenth- to early sixteenth- century, with some nineteenth-century  modifications.  There are a number of surviving fifteenth- to early seventeenth- century memorials and monuments in the church, alongside a font dating to 1637.  There are also some interesting stained-glass windows acquired from King’s College, Cambridge, and inserted in the nineteenth century, although dating to the fourteenth to sixteenth.

The neighbouring new church was built in 1943, to cater for the then rapidly growing population of local factory workers and commuters.

A Virtual Tour Of “Dark Age” London

MapA virtual tour of “Dark Age” London …

1 – St Paul’s Cathedral


There have been five cathedrals on the site of the present, post-Great Fire one. The first was built in 604, by the King of Kent, Ethelburg, for the Bishop of London, Mellitus; the second, in 675, by Bishop Erkenwald;  the third, in 961; and the fourth in 1087.


An eleventh-century grave-slab decorated in the Viking Ringerike style and bearing a Viking Runic inscription has been found in the graveyard.

2 – Paul’s Cross


The Medieval Paul’s Cross was built in 1191 on the site where the Saxons held their folkmoot, or outdoor assembly.  It was demolished in 1643, and the present one was built in 1910.

3 – Cheapside


First recorded – as Westceap – in around 1100, although likely  already in existence in the late ninth to tenth centuries.  Takes its name from the Old English ceap, meaning market.

At the eastern end, Cornhill and Leadenhall Street, also in existence in Saxon times, swing to the north, and Lombard Street and Fenchurch Street to the south, of the Roman Basilica and Forum.

4 – St Alban Wood Street


Originally built in the eleventh century, on the site of a  chapel believed to have been part of the eighth-century palace of the Mercian King Offa.  Subsequently rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666, and substantially destroyed during the Blitz.

5 – Aldermanbury


First recorded 1124 as Aldresmanesburi, from the Old English ealdorman, meaning, originally, shire officer eleigible to take part in Parliament, or Witan,  and burh, meaning manor, in reference to this being the place where the Saxons held their husting, or indoor assembly.  One of the postulated locations was in the eastern gate-house of the Roman Cripplegate Fort on Aldermanbury, another in the Roman amphitheatre in Guildhall Yard (image, Museum of London)

6 – Guildhall


Originally built sometime before 1128, possibly on the site of an even older building, where the Saxons held their  husting (?in the Roman amphitheatre).  The bulk of the present building dates back to the early fifteenth century.

7 – St Lawrence Jewry, Gresham Street


Originally built in the Saxon period, wood from a coffin in the churchyard having yielded a dendrochronological date of 1046 (image, Museum of London).  Subsequently rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666.

8 – St Olave Jewry, Ironmonger Lane


Probably originally built in the eleventh century  (Olaf Haraldsson was killed  in 1030, and made a saint in  1031).  Subsequently rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666.

9 – St Mary Aldermary, Watling Street


Originally built at least as long ago as the late eleventh century, being older than the church of St Mary-le-Bow, which was completed in 1087 (hence the name).  Subsequently rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666.

10 – Queenhithe


First recorded in 898 as Aetheredes hyd, Ethered being Alfred the Great’s son-in-law (image, Museum of London).


The site of the “Alfred Plaque” …


… and of the discovery of a timber evidently from an arcaded aisled hall – or royal palace – dendro dated to 956-79.

11 – London Bridge

London Bridge being pulled down in the Viking attack led by Olaf The Norseman in 1014

According to one interpretation, destroyed, along with a  Danish Viking army assembled on it, by the  Norwegian Viking Olaf   Haraldsson, an ally of the English King, Ethelred, in 1014 (image, “Look and Learn”).  Olaf went on to be  killed in 1030, and made a saint by the  Bishop of Selsey  in 1031.   A number of churches were dedicated to him in London.

12 – St Magnus the Martyr, Thames Street



Probably originally built in the twelfth century (Magnus Erlendsson, the piously Christian Viking Earl of Orkney, was murdered by pagan Vikings in c. 1115, and made a saint in 1135).  Subsequently rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666.

13 – Eastcheap


First recorded – as Estcep – on a Harold I “Jewel Cross” penny  made  by the moneyer Eadwold most likely sometime between 1035-7, although likely already in existence in the late ninth to tenth centuries.

14 – St Dunstan-in-the-East, St Dunstan’s Hill (off Great Tower Street)


Originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century  (the sometime Bishop of London Dunstan, who founded Westminster Abbey in 960, died in 988, and was made a saint in 1029).  Subsequently rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666, and substantially destroyed during the Blitz.

15 – All Hallows Barking, Byward Street

Originally built by Ethelburga, Abbess of Barking, in c. 675, and rebuilt in the later Medieval and post-Medieval periods, and again after the Second World War.


A stone arch possibly of the seventh century  survives in the nave.


Two stone crosses survive in the crypt: one, of c. 900, bearing  a Saxon Runic inscription; …


… the other , of c. 1000,  an intricate  carving of Christ over beasts, a characteristic of Dark Age iconography.

16 – St Olave Hart Street



Probably originally built in wood in the eleventh century (sometime after Olaf’s canonisation in 1031), and subsequently rebuilt in stone in the later Medieval period.  Survived the Great Fire of 1666.





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Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Kingston was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 838 as Cynings tun, meaning the king’s estate or manor, and alluding to the fact that in Saxon times it was owned by the  king.


Seven Saxon kings are reputed to have been crowned here, on a site now occupied by the church of All Saints, including  Athelstan, the first king of the united England, in 924/925.



The nearby Market Place is a Scheduled Conservation area, with some buildings purporting to date back to the  fifteenth or sixteenth centuries.

Church of All Saints


The church of All Saints was originally built in the twelfth century, around 1130, on the site of an earlier, Saxon church dedicated to St Mary, although it has subsequently been much modified, most notably in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.


A surviving part of the wall of the Saxon church  may be seen in the churchyard.


There are a number of interesting surviving Medieval and post-Medieval features in the interior,


including part of a late tenth- or eleventh- century Saxon cross-shaft,


fourteenth-century wall painting of St Blaise,


and the early seventeenth-century tomb of Sir Anthony Benn.

Saint Olav(e)

On this day in 1030, the Norwegian King Olav II was killed fighting the Danish Vikings at the Battle of Stiklestad.  A year later, he was canonised by the  English Bishop of Selsey, Grimkell or Grimketel (the local canonisation was later confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1164).

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In the later Middle Ages, Olav’s tomb, in the most northerly cathedral in Christendom, in Nidaros [Trondheim], became an important pilgrimage site, and the centre of a widespread “cult of Olav”.

5 - Relief of St Olav, church of St Olave Hart Street

Interestingly, a  number of churches in and around the City of London are  dedicated to St Olav(e),  including  St Olave Hart Street (pictured, above) …

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… St Nicholas Olave, St Olave Jewry and St Olave Silver Street (pictured, above) in the City …

4 - Mosaic of St Olave, site of former church of St Olave Southwark

… St Olave in Southwark …

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…  and St Olave in Rotherhithe.

This is because, in 1014, Olav Haraldsson, as he then was, was an ally of the Saxon English, under Ethelred “The Unready”, in their fight against the against the Viking Danish, under Cnut, and he helped relieve  Saxon London from Viking occupation  (albeit only temporarily).

According to the “Olaf Sagas”, he destroyed the Saxon incarnation of London Bridge, and the Viking army assembled on it poised to attack, by pulling it down with ropes tied to his long-boats.

The  court poet Ottar Svarte wrote, in the eleventh century, and Snorri Sturluson rewrote, in the thirteenth:

“London Bridge is broken down.

Gold is won, and bright renown.

Shields resounding, war-horns sounding,

Hild is shouting in the din!

Arrows singing, mail-coats ringing-

Odin makes our Olaf win!”

Many believe this to be the origin of the much-loved nursery-rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”.